This is the holiest time of the year. Last night (Thursday), we celebrated the Institution of the Eucharist and the Washing of the Feet. Today is Good Friday, the day which we celebrate the Crucifixion of Jesus. Yes, we celebrate the Crucifixion. Crucifixion is a terrible way to die used for terrible criminals. Jesus was innocent yet he was willing to die for our sins. We celebrate what Jesus has done for us out of love.
Our Triduum is spread over three days so we tend to look at the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection as three separate events. They are not three separate events but one transformative event foundational to who we are as Christians.
The transformative and foundational event for the Jewish people was the Passover, recognizing God’s action in setting his people free from the Egyptians so they might head to the promised land. Jesus took the Passover event from being a celebration of freedom from the Egyptians to celebrating our freedom from sin.
Jesus instituted the Eucharist when he said ‘Take this and eat it, this is body’ and ‘Take and drink, this is my blood.’ The blood is a sign of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. The bread we receive is the bread of life. It is also the lamb that takes away our sins.
Recognizing that the Triduum as one event is crucial to our understanding of our celebration of the Eucharist as a sacrifice. The Jewish celebration of the Passover included the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb. Jesus is the unblemished lamb (without sin). When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are not celebrating a new sacrifice. It is the one sacrifice that Christ made on the Cross for us.
Some say that Catholics re-enact the sacrifice of Jesus in the Eucharist. We do not. Because, unlike God, we are bound by time, I don’t think there is a good word in English to describe how our celebration of the Eucharist is the same sacrifice that Jesus offered at the Last Supper and in his Crucifixion.
The Last Supper and the Crucifixion are one event. But it does not end there. To fully understand how the Triduum is one foundational event for us we have to wait for the Resurrection for without the Resurrection, the Crucifixion might only be a pointless death.